NORMAN — Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops will kick off spring football 2014 with a Thursday news conference, and the Sooners hit the practice field two days later.
At this time a year ago, Oklahoma was coming off an embarrassing Cotton Bowl defeat, had three new assistant coaches and an intense quarterback battle dominated most of the discussion surrounding the team.
These past two months have been much quieter. Oklahoma’s coaching staff has remained fully intact and Trevor Knight has a firm grip on the quarterback job following his MVP performance in OU’s Sugar Bowl win over Alabama.
But these Sooners still have some questions to answer if they’re going to be a legitimate national championship contender in 2014.
Here’s a look at five pressing questions facing Oklahoma as it begins spring workouts this week.
1. Who will emerge as the Sooners’ primary ball carrier?
The safe money is on sophomore Keith Ford, who became a fan favorite as a true freshman last season with his hard-nosed, tough running style. But Ford displayed a troubling fumble problem midway through the season, then got hurt on special teams. Ford and sophomore Alex Ross will likely receive the bulk of the work this spring, but both will have to fight off challenges from incoming freshmen Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine in the fall. Without the newcomers breathing down their necks this spring, Ford and Ross can establish themselves as the top two options entering fall camp.
2. Who will replace All-Big 12 performer Aaron Colvin at the cornerback spot opposite Zack Sanchez?
Junior Cortez Johnson started two games and sophomore Stanvon Taylor started one last year with Colvin injured, but Taylor appears to be the favorite. He struggled some in the Sooners’ loss at Baylor, but as a true freshman against that offense, who wouldn’t suffer through some growing pains? Sophomore Dakota Austin also saw some playing time as a true freshman, and senior Julian Wilson — OU’s starting nickelback last year — has expressed interest in moving to corner.
3. How will Trevor Knight handle his newfound fame?
Knight became an overnight superstar after leading the Sooners to their impressive Sugar Bowl upset of Alabama. With some guys, there might be legitimate concerns about how they might handle such sudden, overwhelming fame, but Knight has done nothing to make anyone believe he’s one of them. The affable, approachable Knight seems perfectly comfortable being the face of Oklahoma’s football program.
4. How will former quarterback Blake Bell adapt to his new position?
No one would’ve blamed Bell if he had decided to follow Kendal Thompson out the door and transfer, but the two-time Bedlam hero chose to remain a Sooner and switch positions. All indications are that Bell has looked pretty good catching the ball during voluntary workouts the past several weeks. But how will that translate to the game field? And perhaps the most important question remains: Can he block?
5. How will backup quarterback Cody Thomas manage his two-sport spring?
With Thompson’s transfer and Bell’s position change, Thomas, a redshirt freshman, becomes Oklahoma’s second-team quarterback. Thomas is also playing baseball this spring. That might not be as big a deal if he was the third-stringer, but the balancing act becomes much more difficult as Knight’s primary backup. True freshman Justice Hansen, an early enrollee from Edmond Santa Fe, might benefit most from Thomas’ dual commitments this spring.